The Independent Commission’s second public hearings focused on Congressional oversight and aviation and transportation safety.
Members of Congress testified about the importance of a thorough investigation into the terrorist attacks and their expectations of the commission’s outcome, often based upon the needs of their constituents. Testimony was given regarding Congressional responsibilities and problematic issues related to oversight of intelligence and security agencies.
Testimony about aviation safety indicated that there have been improvements since September 11th, but that dangerous security issues continue in aviation, such as carrying cargo on passenger planes, and in the transportation industry as a whole. During an interview with a former FAA administrator who testified that prior to September 11th there had been no credible threats that airplanes would be used as weapons, Tim Roemer read from a partial list of terrorist plots which directly refuted the FAA official’s testimony:
1995- Ramsey Yousef’s plan to crash an airplane into the CIA Building in Langley, VA
1998 – terrorists planned to fly an explosive laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center
1998 – Turkish Islamist extremists planned to fly a plane into Ataturk’stomb,
1999 – Al Qaeda planned an attack with a hang glider
2001 – Terrorists planned to crash an airplane into a building or bomb the embassy in Nairobi
A former Red Team investigator spoke about the lack of enforcement and follow-up with the airlines after Red Team discoveries of security lapses, and in some instances, he alleged that the FAA covered-up Red Team’s findings.
Aviation witnesses said that part of the problem of enforcing compliance was that the airlines would lobby members of Congress, often convincing them that by enforcing the measures required, they were unable to keep the airlines running efficiently. Congressional members would then pressure the FAA to reduce the fines for non-compliance to as little as ten cents on the dollar; thereby reducing the airlines’ impetus to properly enforce the required security measures.
NORAD officials’ testimony spoke of radar pointed out toward the oceans, a policy which had not changed since the end of the cold war, rendering us unprepared for an attack from within.
A NORAD timeline was presented which detailed each hijacked plane’s movements as well NORAD’s response. Some elements of NORAD’s timeline did not match a timeline presented earlier by FAA officials. Commissioners raised questions about those discrepancies and several omissions in the timeline.
Mention was also made of maritime security, which is vulnerable due to the enormous amount of cargo which passes through our ports.
Visit the official site of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States http://www.9-11commission.gov for a list of witnesses and their credentials.
Archives of audio, video, and transcripts from the second public hearings will be posted on that site.